Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Canesta Raises $16 Million

SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The pioneer and leading provider of mass-market 3-D image sensors, Canesta, Inc. today announced it has raised $16 million in additional capitalization. Joining returning investors Carlyle Growth Partners, Hotung Venture Group, and Venrock are two new strategic investors – Quanta Computer Inc. (2382.TW), the world’s largest manufacturer of notebook computers, and SMSC (NASDAQ:SMSC), a leading provider of smart mixed-signal connectivity solutions.

Canesta has invented a family of tiny CMOS 3-D “camera” chips that can provide a real-time, 3-D “depth map” of the surrounding area to PCs, consumer electronics devices such as televisions, videogames, or smartphones. The technology enables revolutionary 3-D user experiences that dramatically improve device functionality and convenience, and are just plain fun to use. The strategic investments by PC maker Quanta and chipmaker SMSC, in particular, signal an increasing interest worldwide in applying true 3-D human-interface device (HID) capabilities to personal computer applications.

“The emergence of 3-D ‘natural’ interfaces in PCs – such as ‘touchless’ gesture controls – as well as other immersive applications, has been inevitable,” commented Jim Spare president and CEO of Canesta. “While significant advances in computer processing and graphics continue to be made, consumers are proving increasingly indifferent to these as product differentiators. As a consequence, we are seeing an immense shift in focus by OEMs to radical innovation and improvement in the user experience, as a way of gaining competitive advantage.”

Moreover, Spare explained, current breakaway products in the mobile space that utilize multi-touch, and market-changing products in gaming that incorporate accelerometers for positional inputs, provide a sneak preview of what will be possible with Canesta-based 3-D natural interfaces. “We are on the verge of a decade of innovation in human interfaces,” predicted Spare.

Earlier this year, Hitachi and Canesta demonstrated a television that enables consumers to navigate an array of television-based services using a visual 3-D interface and natural “gesture-based” controls.

Moreover, gesture-controlled PC interfaces have been featured for several years in several popular television series such as CSI: Miami – where characters sift through page after page of forensic data simply with the wave of a hand. Because of such influences, Spare says that the public is “suitably primed” for fully-immersive user experiences that go “beyond multi-touch” and do not require the user to hold any controller in his or her hand.

Spare also sees this investment in larger terms: “The implied endorsement and strong interest in 3-D imaging technology by the world’s largest personal computer ODM [original device manufacturer] will encourage other players to adopt this game-changing technology,” said Spare. “And as that happens, our standard CMOS approach will enable us to constantly drive down cost and improve performance. 3-D CMOS sensors will become as ubiquitous on PCs, cell phones, and other consumer electronics as CMOS 2-D color camera chips are on notebooks and cell phones today.”

Taiwan’s Quanta Computer shares this vision. “We are excited to become a key investor in Canesta,” said Cherng Chao, senior vice president of Quanta. “A natural interface on a PC is as important a breakthrough as was the mouse, and we expect a similar paradigm shift to eventually take hold. Canesta literally invented the field of mass market, 3-D electronic perception, and we have great expectations of what we can accomplish together.”

Quanta Computer is the underlying manufacturer for many name-brand PCs and notebook computers, as well as a broad-based supplier of sub-assemblies. Quanta’s consolidated sales in 2008, at today’s rates, were approximately US$25 billion. The company plans to introduce Canesta’s unique capabilities into their broad market.

The “Other Side” of 3-D

Canesta holds over 40 granted patents for a broad range of breakthroughs in its electronic perception technology. These include innovations in silicon implementation, optics, key applications such as hands-free gesture control, and many others.

While most of the popular conception of 3-D technology has been on the “output” side, such as representing 3-dimensional objects in two dimensions (e.g., for the exploding 3-D feature-film presentation market, such as the movie Up; 3-D games; or industrial applications such as computer aided design of vehicles or aircraft), Canesta has focused on “the other side of 3-D”, that is, the “input” side.

Canesta’s technology is designed to make it possible for everyday devices to see and react to the world around them. It achieves this by being able to accurately, and in real time, measure the distance to thousands of features in the “frame” in view of the sensor, and to supply this data, at over 60 frames-per-second, to the device – PC, television, cell phone, videogame – in which it is embedded.

It is the only available technology that achieves 3-D imaging with a single, mass market CMOS sensor, in all lighting conditions from darkness to bright sunlight, and irrespective of the features in the scene or background.

Co-investor SMSC, a leader in “smart” mixed-signal connectivity applications and chips, sees Canesta’s 3-D sensor chips as an important, new IC application.

“We focus on bringing a broad array of capabilities to the PC ecosystem,” said Christine King, CEO and president of SMSC. “We believe that devices that can perceive the world around them in 3-D terms will become life-changing and ubiquitous, and are a key and basic part of that ecosystem. This is a new class of chip, and we are delighted to participate with Canesta on this technology evolution.”

Canesta plans to use the new funds for business expansion and working capital in order to meet the needs of its rapidly growing consumer product and personal computer customer-base.

About Canesta

Canesta is the inventor of revolutionary, low-cost electronic perception technology that is the foundation for the “other side of 3-D” – true 3-D perception as input to everyday devices, rather than the widely-understood 3-D representational technologies as output.

Canesta’s 3-D input technology, based upon tiny, CMOS 3-D imaging chips or “sensors”, enables fine-grained, 3-dimensional depth-perception in virtually any kind of consumer device such as PCs, TVs, game consoles, and mobile phones, as well as automotive, industrial, and other products. Such products can then react on sight to the actions or motions of individuals and objects in their field of view, gaining levels of functionality and ease of use that were simply not possible in an era when such devices were blind.

Numerous applications are under active development by Canesta’s OEM customers and partners, including consumer electronics, PC, TV, building automation, security, robotics, automotive, and others. Such customers and partners include Hitachi, Honda, Optex, Optronic, Quanta, SMSC, and others which have yet to be announced.

Canesta is located in Sunnyvale, CA. The company has filed in excess of fifty patents, 40 of which have been granted so far.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sigma Designs, Inc. to Acquire CopperGate Communications Ltd.

MILPITAS, Calif. & TEL AVIV, Israel--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sigma Designs®, Inc. (NASDAQ:SIGM) (“Sigma”) and CopperGate Communications Ltd. (“CopperGate”) today announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement for Sigma to acquire CopperGate in a cash and stock transaction with an agreed value of $160 million, net of CopperGate’s cash at the closing of the transaction.

CopperGate is a leading provider of silicon-based modem solutions enabling distribution of broadband digital content over all three types of wires in the home: coax, phone and power. CopperGate solutions are deployed by service providers enabling the delivery of HDTV, VoIP and fast Internet services. CopperGate is headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel with operations in the U.S. and Taiwan.

The combination of Sigma and CopperGate creates a leading provider of networked home entertainment semiconductor solutions. The companies have highly complementary technology platforms that form a portfolio of end to end solutions. The transaction further strengthens Sigma’s position and expands its footprint with key customers, in addition to enabling cross selling opportunities.

The combination of Sigma and CopperGate is also expected to yield several potential synergies including synergies from leveraging manufacturing know-how and combined wafer sourcing, further SoC integration and combined research and development.

The estimated amount of cash to be paid by Sigma on the closing date is approximately $92 million, plus the amount of cash and cash equivalents estimated to be held by CopperGate at the closing, net of CopperGate transaction expenses and debt outstanding at the closing. In addition, Sigma will issue shares of its common stock to CopperGate shareholders estimated at the time of signing to equal approximately 4.0 million shares.

Sigma has also agreed to pay up to an aggregate of $5.0 million in cash to specified CopperGate employees; provided that the eligible employee remains employed by Sigma and certain milestones are achieved. Sigma will also assume unvested stock options held by CopperGate employees that will become exercisable for approximately 0.5 million Sigma shares when vested in accordance with their existing vesting schedules.

The definitive agreement and the acquisition have been approved by the board of directors of each company. The closing of the transaction remains subject to closing conditions, including the approval of the shareholders of CopperGate and Israeli securities law matters. The holders of over 95% of the outstanding capital stock of CopperGate have executed the definitive agreement. Certain significant shareholders have also agreed to vote their shares in favor of the transaction. The transaction is expected to close in 45 to 60 days. UBS Securities LLC is acting as Sigma’s exclusive financial advisor.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fresco Microchip Announces Closing of $10 Million in Financing

TORONTO--(Marketwire - October 8, 2009) - Fresco Microchip Inc., a developer of leading edge RF, mixed-signal and digital signal processing integrated circuits (ICs), today announced that it closed a financing round totaling $10 million. Celtic House Venture Partners and Ventures West led the financing round. Fresco will expand its commercial activities and bring new products to market with the funding.

Fresco's industry-leading worldwide demodulators and IF processors enable television tuner can manufacturers to build low cost, ultra-thin products with improved picture quality. Six of the top nine tuner can manufacturers are actively promoting or producing products using Fresco's components. Television, DVD-R, PVR, and set-top box manufacturers have rapidly adopted Fresco's solutions for analog and hybrid markets around the world.

"Fresco's success is proof that the lowest cost appropriate solution always wins in the consumer electronics industry," said Lance Greggain, CEO, president, and co-founder of Fresco Microchip. "We are pleased with the confidence and commitment to Fresco demonstrated by this latest investment from Canada's leading venture capital firms."

"We are excited by the strong customer pull for Fresco's products and the expansion of the company's product portfolio to address new opportunities," said Brian Antonen, partner of Celtic House. "Fresco's success confirms our long-term investment strategy of building a cluster of world-leading companies focused on consumer video. We are delighted to fund the company as they embark on the next phase of growth."

"Fresco Microchip sets a new benchmark for successful venture-backed companies," said Ted Anderson, managing general partner of Ventures West. "Fresco's strong value proposition in a well-established, multibillion dollar high growth market aligns closely with our investment focus on winning companies with proven track records for focused execution and broad customer traction."

About Ventures West

Ventures West is a privately held venture capital investment group that invests in early stage technology companies across Canada from offices in Vancouver and Toronto. Established in the Canadian venture capital market for 40 years, Ventures West has formed eight venture capital funds totaling over $700 million, and has invested in over 200 companies. With 5 professional technology investment managers, the Ventures West team has over 100 years of technology venture investing and hands-on operating experience. For more information, visit www.ventureswest.com.

About Celtic House Venture Partners

For over 15 years, Celtic House Venture Partners has been Canada's most active investor in private information and communications technology companies. Applying a unique architectural approach to investing and capitalizing on the deep domain expertise of its partners, Celtic House has consistently provided superior financial returns to its investors. With $315 million under management, Celtic House has collaborated with management teams and repeat entrepreneurs to develop platform technology companies from the inception phase through to exit, generating over 20 initial public offerings and successful acquisitions. For more information, visit www.celtic-house.com.

About Fresco Microchip, Inc.

Fresco Microchip is a fabless semiconductor company focused on leading edge RF, mixed-signal and digital signal processing architectures for consumer markets. Founded in 2004, Fresco Microchip has established a team of technology, sales and marketing veterans in the TV semiconductor industry with strong track records, multiple design patents and long-standing customer relationships with the world's most recognizable and respected consumer electronic brands. The company is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, with design centers in Ottawa, Canada and Irvine, California. For more information visit: www.frescomicrochip.com.